Debt-free education

01 11 Auto Challenge Adriance Miner

Ethan Adriance,left, and Troy Miner, both seniors at Laconia High School and students in the Huot Technical Center's Automotive program, will represent the Huot on Saturday in an  technical challenge featuring the brightest automotive students in the state. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Automotive repair contest showcases lucrative skills

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Troy Miner knew he wanted to work on cars for a living since as far back as he can remember. For Ethan Adriance, the ambition to become an automotive technician came to him much more recently, when he discovered that he could make a good living by fixing cars, and wouldn’t have to take on the debt required for a four-year college degree.

Miner and Adriance, both seniors at Laconia High School and enrolled in the Huot Career and Technical Center’s Automotive program, are among the state’s 20 top automotive students who will be competing in a hands-on competition held at Lakes Region Community College.
The 2018 High School Automotive Technology Contest, which will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, will present 10 identical Toyota Camrys, each with the same malfunction, to be solved by two-person teams. Miner and Adriance, who scored first and second among Huot students on a written exam prepared on behalf of the New Hampshire Automotive Dealers Association, will represent the Huot Technical Center.
In fact, not only did Miner and Adriance earn top marks for Huot, they were among the best in the state, said Steve Clavett, Huot Automotive teacher. Their scores, collectively, were tied for second-best in the state, which makes them among the early favorites to win the event on Saturday, when teams will have four hours to diagnose and fix the problem afflicting each Camry. Points will be awarded based on the accuracy and speed at which the problems are identified, documented and resolved. Points can be lost if tools are used incorrectly and if safety rules are violated.
There’s more at stake than a trophy; contest winners will be awarded financial aid at the New Hampshire community college of their choice, where, said Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, students can gain the certifications necessary to begin a career.
“These students can graduate with no debt and a great job with terrific pay waiting for them as soon as their degree is in hand,” said Gittell.
And, it’s an industry desperate for more technicians, said Peter McNamara, president of the NHADA.
“We have hundreds of auto tech jobs available in New Hampshire right now, and these are great paying jobs with average wages of nearly $60,000. This competition will showcase the best our state has to offer, but it also highlights a specific need in our industry. And employers will pay top dollar for top talent,” McNamara said.
That’s music to the ears of students like Adriance, who decided last year that he would pursue a career as an automotive technician. He had grown tired of the insistence, repeated throughout his education, that he attend a four-year college and assume decades of debt in order to do so. But, when he started taking the first level of Clavett’s course last year, he found a more laid-back environment and a topic he enjoyed.
“I found out I really liked working on cars, I decided I wanted to make a career out of it,” Adriance said. “In this career, everything’s always changing, you’re always learning something new.”
Miner, whose father has a DeLorean, never gave a thought to doing anything else with his life.
“For me, it’s been all my life. There’s never been a point in my life that I didn’t want to work on cars,” said Miner. “It’s sort of like a puzzle, you get the satisfaction of putting the puzzle back together.”
Both Miner and Adriance have been accepted to Ohio Technical College, in Cleveland, where they can earn their certifications and an associate’s degree in 18 months, then begin their careers.
Once they’re ready to do so, they should have no shortage of job offers. In New Hampshire, and across the country, there aren’t enough young technicians. Clavett said it’s an effect of changing culture.
“A lot of the shortage exists because kids aren’t passionate about their cars anymore,” Clavett said. He teaches students aged 16 to 18, and only about half of them have a driver’s license, he said.
Though they may not be passionate about cars, the draw of a good-paying career without much student debt has proven appealing to Huot students. Clavett’s program is full, with a waiting list.